‘Sometimes David has to challenge Goliath’

The Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission line would run along CSX railroad tracks in New Baltimore. File photo

NEW BALTIMORE — A resolution granting municipal consent for a $3 billion power transmission proposal that has passed easily in most other communities was opposed Monday by a small but vocal group of opponents in New Baltimore.

“Sometimes David has to challenge Goliath,” resident James Eckl said as he left the town board meeting Monday evening.

The Champlain Hudson Power Express project would run 338 miles of power line from the U.S.-Canada border to New York City, with 60% of the line buried underwater and 40% underground, according to the project website.

The transmission line would supply power to New York City, enough for 1 million homes, according to Transmission Developers, Inc., a Blackstone portfolio company.

Municipalities along the transmission line were asked to adopt resolutions granting their consent to the project.

The line would be installed on an existing right of way alongside the CSX railroad track in New Baltimore.

“For the most part, this will be almost entirely on the railroad property, supposedly,” Town Supervisor Jeff Ruso said after introducing the resolution.

Town resident Ellie Alfeld, who owns property near the railroad tracks, was skeptical.

“Have you ever actually seen the map of where this line is going?” Alfeld said. “Have any of you walked the area?”

Ruso said he has, and that the map indicates the line would be installed on the other side of the railroad tracks from her home.

“However, I know the topography back there. I have walked it. That is pretty rocky stuff back there — they are going to have to do some blasting if they are going to put something there,” Ruso said.

Alfeld expressed concern about her home and well water should there be blasting to install the line.

“We don’t know where this damn thing is going,” Alfeld said.

Ruso responded that the line would run parallel to the railroad track. He has met with the developers, he added.

“I said to them, if you are going to be crossing anyone’s property, you better be talking to those property owners, period,” Ruso said. “They presume they are going to stay on railroad property. It is when they move off of that property where you or I would have a problem. I do see a problem on Route 144.”

The only town-owned road the project is expected to cross is New Baltimore Road, Ruso said. The line would also cross Route 144, but that is a state road, he added.

“I don’t think there are any other roads in the town of New Baltimore that they will cross,” Ruso said.

In exchange for the power line running through New Baltimore, the town would receive $120,000 a year through a Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement, Ruso said.

Town Councilwoman Shelly Van Etten said there was nothing the town could do about the project, one way or another.

Ruso agreed.

“It comes down to this,” Ruso said. “There are a lot of bigger players than the town of New Baltimore or Ellie [Alfeld] or Jeff [Ruso], who are worried about their stretch of property. There are a lot of big bucks in this.”

Alfeld scoffed.

“And they are not sharing any of them with New Baltimore — you can be damn sure of that,” she said.

Eckl also expressed skepticism and wanted to see the town gain more from the project.

“The Blackstone Group isn’t doing this out of the goodness of their heart,” Eckl said. “They will get something out of it, our fellow New Yorkers in Queens will get something out of it — they will get the benefits of high-tech electrical power. So I ask — what can New Baltimoreans expect to get out of it?”

The PILOT revenue would be the town’s only benefit, Ruso said.

“The amount of money we will get out of it. That is all we will get,” he said. “I wish there was a greater benefit, however, I don’t see it. It is going to happen whether I want it to or not.”

The right of way already exists, Town Councilman Bill Boehlke pointed out.

“We are not blazing a trail for this right of way. They are utilizing an existing right of way to put this line down so it will have virtually no impact on the town as far as acquiring or reacquiring any property to run this right of way.”

New Baltimore was the last town in Greene and Albany counties to vote on the municipal consent resolution, Ruso said.

“We did struggle like a fish on a line, but that’s all we were — a fish on a line,” he said.

The resolution was adopted unanimously by the town board.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article reflects a correction to the amount of money the town will receive through the PILOT, which was incorrectly identified during the meeting as $20,000. The correct amount is $120,000, according to Town Supervisor Jeff Ruso.

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